By Renee Steinhagen
NJ Appleseed’s Role in the New Jersey and Greater Newark Coalitions
Since our inception, NJ Appleseed has focused its efforts on health care issues, providing a legal voice to communities and organizations seeking to establish health care as a social right by preserving hospitals as charitable community assets, improving access to quality, affordable health care services, and diminishing racial disparities in the health status of Newark residents. Our work in this area can be characterized as three distinct projects: The Community Health Assets Protection Project (representing the community in administrative and court procedures to ensure that hospital boards satisfy their fiduciary duties to the public when seeking to merge or sell their charitable health assets to a for-profit entity or another nonprofit with a different mission); a Consumer Advocacy Project and a Transforming Healthcare Delivery Project.
Under the rubric of our Consumer Advocacy Project, NJ Appleseed has participated on the leadership team of the NJ Healthcare Coalition since its founding in 2006. As the only legal organization participating in the Coalition (Legal Services of NJ informally participates but is not a member), NJ Appleseed services the Coalition, its individual members and the public generally with respect to legal policy issues, including drafting and analyzing legislation, preparing regulatory comments, and preparing white papers and consumer manuals with respect to legal rights, such as the right to appeal insurance denials of benefits. We are now considering whether to convert the New Jersey Sentinel website (which was product of a joint project between NJ Appleseed and Seton Hall Law School, funded by RWJ Foundation to evaluate essential benefits) into a comprehensive consumer health care website that provides information directly to New Jersey consumers on how to navigate the insurance, health care (providers), and public health systems in the State, and perhaps the website could deal with occupational health and safety as well as environmental health issues.
Since the closure of St. James and Columbus hospitals in Newark, NJ Appleseed’s Executive Director has been a board member of the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition (consisting of a wide array of providers, including hospitals, physicians, federally qualified health centers, nurses, etc.), which was established as the Hospital CEO Working Group as a result of those closures. The Coalition is a planning organization that oversees various projects that seek to transform the healthcare system so it is more equitable, socially and racially just, and effective in improving the health status of Newark residents. NJ Appleseed is the Chair of the Legal and Advocacy Subcommittee, which is the one Board committee that draws mainly from persons who are not represented on the board. As one of three non providers on the board –- representatives from NJIT and Seton Hall Law School are the other two –- NJ Appleseed is trying to bring the consumer perspective to the Board’s decision making, and to encourage community participation in the organization’s activities.
We are seeking resources to support our activities in these two coalitions.